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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:After a dice game at a local nightclub, Milton Anthony Thomas shot and injured a fellow gambler while stealing the victim’s winnings. The state charged Thomas by indictment with aggravated robbery, enhanced by one prior felony conviction. Thomas pleaded not guilty to the primary offense and pleaded “not true” to the enhancement. A jury found Thomas guilty, found the enhancement paragraph not true and assessed punishment at 50 years of confinement. At trial, the state used its 10 peremptory strikes to exclude six of the seven African-Americans on the panel of 38 eligible jurors. Venire members 5, 10, 14, 16, 21, 24 and 30 were African-American. The state struck each of the venire members, with the exception of No. 16, who ultimately served on the jury. The defense objected to the state having used “50 percent” of its peremptory challenges to exclude African-American venire members based on race, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The trial court overruled the objection. Thomas raised four issues. In his first through third issues, Thomas argued that the trial court erred by overruling his objections to the state’s peremptory challenges to exclude three venire members on the basis of race, in violation of Batson. In his fourth issue, Thomas challenged the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court first addressed Thomas’ second issue, because it was dispositive. Thomas, the court stated, argued that the trial court erred in overruling his objection to the state’s peremptory strike of venire member No. 14, Janice Williams, because the state “engaged in purposeful discrimination,” citing Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 35.261 and Batson. During voir dire, the court noted, the state asked venire members to identify themselves if they were crime victims. The record indicated that five eligible venire members (Nos. 12, 14, 19, 26 and 27) answered in the affirmative. Among the five who answered that they or a close family member or friend had been victimized by crime, Williams was the sole African-American and the sole venire member that the state struck. The court found disparate treatment of the venire members who reported that they were crime victims. The court pointed out that the state’s claim that it struck Williams due to her crime-victim status did not square with the fact that nonblack venire members who were crime victims were not similarly struck. This disparity, the court found, supported a conclusion that race was significant in determining which jurors were challenged. Because the record showed disparate treatment of Williams, the court held that the trial court’s finding of no racial discrimination was clearly erroneous. The exercise of even one racially-motivated peremptory strike invalidates the jury selection, the court stated in reversing and remanding the case. OPINION:Higley, J.; Nuchia, Jennings and Higley, J.J.

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